Entrusting someone to care for your kids can be difficult.
Finding a qualified babysitter requires time and effort, but your
reward is assurance that your child is in capable hands. Qualities
to look for include maturity, friendliness, common sense, and a
genuine fondness for children.
The recommendations of people you know and trust are your best
bet for finding a reliable and capable babysitter. If you're
new to the area and don't know how to go about finding a
sitter, ask your neighbors or coworkers for recommendations,
inquire at your place of worship, or ask your child's
doctor or nurse practitioner for suggestions. If your child is
already enrolled in a daycare or after-school care program, staff
members who are already familiar with your child may be willing to
either babysit or provide sitter recommendations.
Interviewing prospective sitters and checking their references
will help you narrow down your sitter choices. Ask about a
sitter's experience caring for children and whether he or
she is certified in infant and child
or has taken a babysitter course such as that offered by the
American Red Cross. (Your local YMCA, community hospital, or
American Red Cross chapter may have a list of babysitters who have
completed their babysitting safety and infant and child CPR
In addition, consider inviting the sitter over for a dry run
while you're at home to familiarize him or her with your
household and observe the interactions with your child.
Before you walk out the door, prepare the sitter with the
- Go over your child's usual routine (for example,
homework, bedtime, mealtimes) and your general house rules (for
example, any limits on TV, computer use, video games,
playing outside, etc.).
- Make sure the sitter knows where you will be and how to reach
you at all times, and under what circumstances to call 911 before
- Point out where the sitter can find the number for
, which is 1-800-222-1222 (it should be posted in a prominent
- Make sure the sitter knows what to do in an
. Provide an
emergency phone list
that includes neighbors, friends, relatives, and your doctor.
Write your own phone number and address on the list, so that in
case of an emergency, the sitter can provide that information to
the police or paramedics.
- Show the babysitter where emergency exits, smoke detectors,
and fire extinguishers are located. Demonstrate how to enable and
disable security systems and alarms.
- Show the sitter where you keep the door keys in case a child
locks himself or herself inside a room.
- Let the sitter know of any special problems your child may
have, such as an allergy to bee stings, certain foods, or
household products, or the need for medication at a specific time
(the directions for which should be clearly explained and written
down). Show the sitter where
items are kept.
- Teach kids the meaning of 911 and how to call for help, so
that if something happens to your babysitter, they know what
Let your babysitter know your expectations before you leave your
home. If you'd prefer that the sitter not leave the house with
your child, make that clear. If the phone and visitors are off
limits, discuss those restrictions.
Make sure the sitter knows the following safety rules:
- Don't give your child any medicine without your written
- Don't leave kids alone in the house or yard, even for a
- Don't leave kids unattended near
. Infants and small children can drown in only a few inches of
water, even in a bucket or toilet.
- Don't feed kids under 4 years old nuts, popcorn, hard
candy, raw carrots, or any hard, smooth foods that can block the
windpipe and cause
. Foods such as hot dogs or grapes should never be served whole
and should be chopped into very small pieces (skin should also be
removed from hot dogs).
- Don't let kids play with plastic bags, latex balloons,
coins, or other small objects they could choke on.
- Don't let kids play near
, windows, stoves, or electrical outlets.
After you return home, ask your child if he or she enjoyed the
sitter's visit. If you find a reliable sitter your child likes,
you'll probably have a more relaxing and enjoyable time away
Susanne I. Kost, MD
Date reviewed: November 2007
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice,
diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995-2009 The Nemours Foundation/KidsHealth. All rights reserved.